Your health, your way

Your NHS guide to long-term conditions and self care

Your rights at work

If you have a long-term health condition, it's usually a good idea to tell your employer. You're not alone: one in six people of working age has a long-term condition or disability. Continuing to work will help your confidence and is an important way of keeping life going as normally as possible.

The benefits of telling your employer

  • It will be easier to get time off for check-ups and treatment during office hours. 
  • Your employer has a duty to take reasonable steps to help you do your job. For example, if you're a patient with a kidney condition, this may mean allowing you to work flexible hours so you can receive dialysis treatment.
  • Your co-workers will know what to do if you have a medical emergency.
  • Your employer can make small but important changes to make life at work easier for you, such as changing which floor you work on or changing the chair you use.
  • You may be eligible for more sick days than usual.

What to tell or ask your employer

There are good reasons to be honest with your employer about your condition. It's natural to worry that you'll be sacked, made redundant, forced into early retirement, or passed over for promotion or bonuses.

But the law is on your side. It is unlawful for an employer to dismiss you on the grounds of chronic illness or because you need regular treatment. Under the Equality Act 2010, your employer must make reasonable changes to your workspace and working conditions to help you do your job.

Be clear with your employer. Talk to the human resources (personnel) department or your line manager about the impact your condition is likely to have on your ability to work.

If you feel it will be difficult to continue in the same job, consider asking your employer to:

  • change your job or workload
  • move you to lighter or less demanding work
  • train you to do another job
  • allow you to work from home

Talk to your manager and colleagues about how your condition affects you. For some illnesses, such as epilepsy and type 1 diabetes, your co-workers need to know what to do if you have a seizure or a "hypo" (an attack of hypoglycaemia caused by low blood sugar). You don't need to go into details, but give them enough information to understand your illness so they can respond to a crisis without panicking.

If, after talking to your employer, you feel you're not getting the help and support you need, talk to your trade union, occupational health department, human resources adviser or local Citizens Advice Bureau branch for confidential advice on what to do next. There are also disability employment advisers who you can contact through the Job Centre.

Page last reviewed: 07/11/2014

Next review due: 07/11/2016

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